Julianne Pyron

Week 2

This week we visited the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault, which was an extremely interesting trip and provided some good information for starting our fieldwork in the arb. I was personally interested in the indigenous history of the area and was fascinated by the story of Alexander Faribault and how he was half Native American. I enjoyed looking at the different indigenous artifacts found in the area, including pottery, tools, arrowheads, and clothing. I was most interested in the pottery, as it had specific markings and told a lot about the different kinds of tools people used to make them. I liked the recreation of an indigenous settlement that showed what it might have looked like and what the landscape looked like before white settlers arrived. I would be interested to know more about the indigenous history in this area and the different kinds of artifacts found that point to indigenous settlement.

Week 3

This week we participated in a field survey of the lower arb farm dump. This was the first time that I’ve done a terrestrial survey, so it was a new experience for me. We lined ourselves up five meters apart and then walked parallel to each other, noting what we found on the ground. Since it was a farm dump, there was a variety of objects on the surface including old cans, ceramic plates, and a barrage of glass artifacts. We made sure to bag the things that we found of interest. While it was difficult to navigate the terrain, as we were walking through thick brush and forest, it was a fun experience and beneficial to understanding archaeological methods. I particularly liked how I was able to find objects that were more than just a few years old, and that there were glass objects with writing on them, including the dates they were made. I think it will be interesting to study these objects to see what we can find out about the area.

We had to trek through thick brush in order to complete our survey.
Finding and cataloging artifacts.

Week 4

This week we started our site survey at the Waterford Mill. We were able to clear brush out of the area, set up a grid survey, and start to get some DGPS points. My team member, Brendan, and I looked at the lower part of the mill wall against the river, as well as the upper part that is closer to the railroad tracks. We sketched the area, making note of points of interests like parts of the wall that had deteriorated and fallen trees, and we put on our sketches potential DGPS points to take. We, unfortunately, didn’t get to get the points, but we were able to get some basic measurements like the length of the walls. We found some interesting objects/artifacts in the area but were careful to not disturb them so that we can document them for the future. The other teams were able to sketch and take points for the surrounding area.

Photo of Waterford Mill (date unknown). source
Some of the remaining foundations of the mill.
Brendan and I’s drawing of the mill foundations closest to the river.

Week 5

This week we finally got to start the process of excavation at Waterford Mill. Within our lab, we were divided into groups that did a gridded survey, DGPS points, and excavation pits. There were two excavation groups, one excavating at the trash pit and our group who excavated at the area between the upper and lower structures of the mill. We started by calculating a 1×1 meter area on the edge of the lower structure in an area that was more or less easy to set up. We strategically chose this area based on the assumption that we may find more material culture that had accumulated at the edge of this structure, whether through human or natural processes. Once we staked the four corners of our area, we marked it off with string. With the boundaries of our area set, we then began to remove any organic debris accumulated on the surface, such as leaves, sticks, branches, rocks, and plants. We then began scraping the surface of the soil with our trowels, where we discovered tiny pellets from an airsoft gun. As far as material culture goes, those are the only things we found, since we ran out of time before getting any further. Next week, we plan to continue our excavation by digging deeper into our area.

Our excavation trench.

Week 6

For lab this week, I continued excavating in the trench we dug last week but with new team members, Jaylin, Anya, and Zobeida. It was clear that the team from Wednesday lab had continued to shovel shave layers of our trench, as there was less vegetation/rock debris and more of the underlying soil visible. We started by digging some more, careful to look for any changes in the soil. Unfortunately for this lab, we did not get deep enough to see any changes, so we are hopeful for next week. As we cleared the dirt, we dumped it into a nearby bucket, and then Anya and I were the first to sift through the soil. We dumped it into the sifter, which was about a quarter of an inch mesh, and looked for any artifacts that had been mixed into the dirt. As we sifted through it, we found some metal items including nails and other unidentifiable items, and we even found some bits of ceramic. It was particularly difficult to spot artifacts in what was sifted since there were so many rocks and other bits of debris that we had to look through. We sifted our soil three times throughout the course of our lab; the most common artifacts that we found were metal nails and large bits of other kinds of metal. In addition to the ceramic, we found a few bits of glass. Anya served as the recorder for this week and wrote down/sketched our trench throughout the entire process.

Now that we are well into the process of excavation, I can see the connections to what some of the guest speakers mentioned in class regarding excavating. Since we found the majority of our objects in the soil sifter, it is difficult to know exactly where we found each artifact stratigraphically in the trench. We are lucky, however, that we’ve only excavated a few inches into our trench, so we have a general idea of the placement of our items. I am interested to hear about what the teams who were shovel testing found. Next week, we hope to continue excavating the pit and find more artifacts that point to the history of the mill.

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Putting the dirt into a pan to sift through later
Our excavation trench.

Week 7

This week, I switched from working in the excavation trench and helped clearing/drawing/surveying the second building area in the Waterford Mill. With my team members (Anya, Brendan, and Jaylin), we divided the work up between us. While Brendan, Anya, and Jaylin started by clearing out some of the brush, I worked on drawing the area. My main goal was to figure out the layout of the building, trying to find the perimeter of the foundations. Anya helped me with measurements, and I made sure to mark some preliminary DGPS points for later collection.

After we finished our first tasks, Anya, Jaylin, and I set up a survey area with a two-meter radius. Scattered around the entire area were some artifacts including bits of metal, shards of glass, and sherds of ceramic. However, our most interesting finds came from the survey area. Jaylin and I discovered an almost-complete leather shoe. The shoe appears to be older, as the leather is fairly deteriorated and has nails in the soles. We searched the area more to see if we could find more pieces of this shoe or perhaps another shoe, but this was the only evidence we found. Anya found a large shard of what seems to be a decorative glass. This is the only piece of glass we found with designs on it. We bagged all of our finds, and in the end, we had bags for leather, ceramic, glass, and metal. Regarding the building foundation, we weren’t quite able to match it to what we assumed the building would have looked like. Brendan continued to look for more evidence of a wall around the area but to no avail. We ended up with an “L” shaped foundation, documented in the feature form.  We ended the lab by having Elise and Ali take DGPS points of a selection of the preliminary points indicated on the feature form.

It is interesting to think of the concept of object biographies when discussing this week’s finds. There is an abundance of nails, glass pieces, and metal bits throughout the entire site, but the unique find of a leather shoe calls to mind questions of ownership, use, and lifespan of the object. We can, of course, speculate how it got there – it might have been one of the mill workers’ or perhaps it was left behind by a passer-by of the site. However, it has not reached the end of its life yet, as we will now carry out artifact analysis on it. That can be said for all of the finds we bag at the site – they won’t be returned to Waterford Mill, but will now be part of the Carleton collection.

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Wall foundation
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Survey area
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Leather shoe sole
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Decorative glass shard

Week 8

This week in lab we moved from the excavation trenches to inside the classroom for artifact cleaning. The job is fairly straightforward but involves knowledge of how different types of artifacts will respond to different types of cleaning methods. For example, ceramic items could be washed in the LDC sinks, but metal items have to be brushed dry due to rusting caused by contact with water. Leather is very delicate and while modern leather probably would have been okay with a little water exposure, the leather shoe was clearly deteriorating and had to be cleaned with dry methods. The various methods of cleaning included brushing with a small toothbrush, brushing with larger brushes, washing, brushing with water, and using a trowel to remove large pieces of dirt on larger objects.

Jaylin and I worked mostly as a team, making observations about the items as we underwent the process. While we haven’t moved into the stage of artifact analysis, we made inferences about what some objects could be as well as their time period of origin. Some of the artifacts included insulators for power lines, common ware ceramic bowls, soda bottles, medicine bottles, and various bits of glass. It is interesting to think about not only how old these objects are, but how they arrived at the site of Waterford Mill. This raises questions such as: did these items belong to the employees? Where these items dumped here by outside individuals? Did these items wash up as part of river debris? While we may not find out the answer to these questions, it is still interesting to try to fit these items into our historical narrative of the site.

Week 9

For this week in lab, we continued in the classroom and moved on to artifact analysis. With the cleaning from last week done, it was easier to move on to this stage as there was an added level of organization. We began by separating each bag into categories based on excavations trenches and surface surveys. Our categories included two excavation trenches each with multiple contexts, gridded survey/field survery, and spot collection.  Labelling the find bags was very important on this front, as if we did not specify where the finds came from, we could not document them properly. We had no shortage of artifacts, as each excavation trench and surface survey contained dozens of finds. After everything was sorted, we worked in teams to record and analyze all the bags. This made the process go faster, versus individual people taking bags and recording the information. It also helped to have a second set of eyes on objects, as a lot of the descriptions can be subjective. I worked in a team with Brendan and Matt, looking specifically at excavations trench 1, contexts 1 and 2. During this process we recorded 6 pieces of information for each item: collection type, collection unit, lot, material, quantity, and description. The artifacts we analyzed were a variety of finds including ceramic, metal, glass, rubber, and leather. The most common items were shards of glass bottles, crushed aluminum cans, and sherds of ceramic pottery. The glass bottles were mostly soda bottles from common brands like Mountain Dew. It was impossible to tell the brand of aluminum cans, as they were heavily tarnished. Most of the ceramic seemed to be from household items like plates, bowls, and mugs. There was scarce writing on the objects, and we weren’t able to discern any specific time period for them. We were able to complete the recording for all items in trench 1 context 1, and had several left for context 2.

One difficulty presented by this activity is describing the artifacts; often, we were presented with items that we were unfamiliar with, or it was an unidentifyable piece of another object, due to its tarnish or the fact that it was incomplete. Also, as mentioned before, descriptions can be subjective – this is why it is important to take pictures of each artifact so they may be recorded digitally. By combining these processes, we are able to have the most possible information about the artifacts. This was my first time organizing and analyzing objects from an archaeological site, and I gained a  lot from the experience that I can apply to future archaeological excavations.

One of our cataloged artifacts – the bottom of an opaque, white glass bottle (penny for scale).
Another artifact – glass fragment of power line insulator (penny for scale).

Week 10

This week, we continued artifact analysis, implementing the same processes as last week. Brendan and I worked as a team to catelog the remaining artifacts, as the Wednesday lab had almost finished the cateloging. Then, we went through each of the find bags to make sure they were cateloged correctly. This was a tedious process that involved scrutinizing the Excel sheet; however, this was an important step to make sure that we could interpret each entry in order to find specific objects. In our process of checking these entries, we found that some people had included artifact bags in the “cateloged” bin that weren’t actually catelogged; this way, we were able to input the data for these forgotten bags, highlighting the importantance of this activity. As a class, we were able to complete this activity, ensuring all the artifact find bags were accounted for. Finally, we were able to start the process of photographing interesting finds to upload on this website (see this page to check them out!).

In the culmination of our lab, I’ve found that I now have great exposure to archaeological excavation and am now familiar with each component of it. From surveying, to excavating, to analysis, to publishing finds, this class has given me the opportunity to take part in an important piece of Carleton history, as well as contribute to the greater knowledge of archaeology. This lab has shown that archaeology is not only about the excavation process, but also about all the work afterwards; excavating is only part of the process – it is through artifact analysis that we understand the context of this site, and thrugh publication that we give back to the community. Waterford Mill, while no longer standing, has been reborn due to our presence at this site. Our work there has (literally) unearthed history that would have otherwise been forgotten. Now, these finds, in addition to our knowledge from excavation, will live on at Carleton College.

Some more examples of artifacts. From left to right – crushed beer can, sherd of decorated porcelain, and rusted meal gear (penny for scale).